Olympic medallists shone brightly in the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup Halfpipe qualifying at Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 today.
Top USA skier Devin Logan, who took silver in the 2014 Olympic slopestyle and won the halfpipe World Cup event at Winter Games NZ 2013, led the field of six women qualifying for Sunday’s final at Cardrona Alpine Resort. The event is also the first Platinum-level competition on this season’s AFP World Tour, the highest possible AFP sanctioning.
In the men’s event, French star Kevin Rolland, who took bronze in the Olympic halfpipe, led the ten qualifiers with his first run score of 92.00.
Logan scored even higher with a blistering first run scoring 92.20 in Cardrona’s Wells Halfpipe, comprising a straight air mute, an alley-oop critical, left 540 tail, right 540 Japan, left 720, and a switch alley-oop 540 Japan.
The result was particularly pleasing as Logan, currently ranked the best overall woman freeskier on the AFP World Tour, hadn’t had much warm up time.
“Today was awesome. I only arrived a couple of days ago so I’m definitely still getting my feet under me. First run, I had some butterflies but still managed to land some solid runs, so I’m really happy about that.
“Second run, I tried to clean it up, although I didn’t really do that, but I still feel great. I’ll definitely be switching it up in the finals. I’ve been working on some new tricks on snow so I’m hoping to put a new trick into my run in competition mode.”
Only a point behind Logan was Japan’s Ayana Onozuka, who won Olympic bronze in the halfpipe and finished last season as world number one on the FIS World Cup circuit, and only slightly behind her was New Zealand’s Janina Kuzma, who placed fifth in the 2014 Olympics and ended last season second in the FIS rankings.
“My first run felt a bit sketchy, but my second run felt really good,” said Kuzma. “I got my grabs in. The pipe is running excellently. They’ve done an excellent job shaping it. I’m super happy with today.”
Fourth place went to Rosalind Groenewoud, one of Canada’s most consistent champions and seventh in the last Winter Olympics halfpipe.
Head judge Lao Chazelas felt the Olympians class showed. “There was a significant difference in riding between the first four skiers and the rest of the roster. The first three competitors have extremely tight results and that’s because of they have amplitude, grabs and difficult tricks, whereas the rest of the girls ski a bit more timidly, without coming out of the pipe.”
He felt some of the men were holding back. “The riders didn’t throw down some of the bigger tricks that they’re keeping for the finals. But the level is quite high, and Kevin’s clean and big skiing is what separated him from the others in the top three.”
On his winning first run the hard-working Rolland laid down a left double 1260 mute, an alley-oop flat 360 safety, a switch left 720 double Japan, a right 900 tail, and a left 900 tail.
“I’m super pleased being first. My goal in these qualifiers was to land in the top three to be able to start last in the finals and see what people are doing before me, so it’s great.
“The pipe is great and it’s really nice to have such good weather this time around. Of course, it’s a little strange for me to be in competition mode in the middle of August since just a couple weeks ago I was in the Bahamas! So you really have to get into the right mindset, but it’s been incredible so far.”
Compatriot Benoit Valentin came third, with second going to Lyman Currier of the USA, and home favourite Kiwi Beau-James Wells nailing a very satisfying fourth place.
“My first run was probably one of the best runs of my life so I’m over the moon at the moment,” said Wells. “I added a new double that I had never done in competition so I had both the right and the left in there. I’ve always loved competing here at Cardrona because my mum can come watch and my whole family too, so it’s awesome.”
Audi quattro Winter Games NZ 2015 continues tomorrow morning (Saturday) with the FIS Snowboard World Cup Slopestyle finals at Cardrona near Wanaka in the morning. Start lists and results are available on the event website www.wintergamesnz.kiwi. The two downtown Games Villages in Queenstown and Wanaka are open daily from 3pm with live music and DJs, medal ceremonies, the Adventure Film Festival presented by GoPro and aprÃ©s ski hospitality.